Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Date: June 27, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise to support the Diaz-Balart amendment and to draw attention to a crisis that will soon hit the city of Miami and many other cities throughout south Florida, our State of Florida, and indeed throughout the Nation.

We are all aware of the difficult funding decisions that will need to be made by many departments and programs. Programs like the Community Development Block Grant may see overall reductions because of the sad realities of the current budget constraints and in the interest of fiscal responsibility. However, because of an arbitrary Community Development Block Grant expenditure cap, countless vulnerable citizens in the city of Miami and throughout the United States will lose their only means of sustenance.

This amendment is not about increased funding, Mr. Chairman, nor is it about changing the overall formula of the Community Development Block Grant. It is simply about providing greater flexibility to cities on how they allocate their CDBG funds. Currently, only 15 percent of Community Development Block Grant funds can go toward public services.

Now, what are public services? Well, they include food for senior citizens, the disabled, the homeless, the abused, or neglected children. They also may be used for child care, for health services, for job training services.

The city of Miami, which I am proud to represent, currently provides these vital services, especially meals, through the current Community Development Block Grant public services. But, because of the overall decrease in CDBG allocations, many disadvantaged men, women, and children will be without the vital support that they deserve and need.

This amendment is simply a painless solution to this development, allowing cities the flexibility they need in how they expand their CDBG funds. It would allow up to 25 percent of CDBG funds to go to public services, a position that has been endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.

The current 15 percent public service expenditure cap was enacted with the original statute over 30 years ago. It does not reflect the evolution of this program, nor the necessity to provide flexibility to local leaders on how funds should be expended during this time of belt tightening. The current restrictive and outdated limit has denied many communities the option of providing their residents with the most basic and necessary services within the framework established by the program.

CDBG public services have played a key role in providing crucial aid to our most at-risk and vulnerable constituents, especially during this enduring recession. Cities across our country have had to do more with less, and this amendment will help them accomplish just that.

I wish to thank Chairman Latham and his staff for working with Congressman Diaz-Balart and me on trying to give this flexibility through the proper channel to our local leaders.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.


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